A year of crisis unlike any in living memory was also a year during which UNDP was able to support the Government and people of Nepal as they coped with, and responded to, the needs of the unsettling hour.
2020 witnessed an unprecedented global crisis and that affected and shaped a significant part of our work at UNDP in Nepal. COVID-19 hit the country in January and it went on to take a huge toll on the country. It disrupted the economy and the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people: daily wage earners, those working in tourism, migrant workers, entrepreneurs, women, elderly, the disabled and others.
Like many other countries, Nepal was unprepared for such a crisis. Health systems were overstretched, and existing social safety nets proved insufficiently robust. From agriculture to hydropower, and education to industry, 2020 was by any measure a tough year. Tourist arrivals dropped by over 80 percent. So deep was the impact and so damaging that GDP fell to a mere 0.6 percent from 7 percent the previous year. UNDP’s rapid socio- economic assessment revealed that three out of every five jobs in micro and small businesses were lost.
Despite all the challenges, and with the generous support of our longstanding partners, UNDP and the Government of Nepal were still able to join hands to help some of the hardest-hit people cope with the crisis. And as the pandemic’s collateral damage became increasingly apparent, UNDP was quick to respond with a comprehensive recovery programme that focused on supporting the most vulnerable people as they sought to recover their livelihoods.
In response to government requests, we reoriented a significant part of our available resources to COVID-19 health response and socio-economic recovery. That, among other things, led to establishment of over 12,000 green businesses and direct livelihood support to over 154,000 of the most-affected people across the country. And UNDP programmes that worked with cooperatives and farmers supported another 19,000 farmers with tools and technology support.
UNDP continued to help build strong institutions at federal, provincial and local levels through the flagship Provincial and Local Government Support Programme. Building the capacities of local and provincial governments, those on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, was critical. We provided vital videoconferencing solutions in a context where professional discourse had become an unprecedented challenge. That alone helped to lubricate the wheels of governance at a timewhen effective, timely communication was essential yet threatened to mutate into posterity. It helped ensure that 753 local governments, seven provincial governments and parliaments and numerous other key institutions were able to continue their work. At least 16 laws and regulations and procedures related to crucial institutions responsible for the smooth running of provincial and local government were drafted under this programme. The laws, once endorsed, are intended to help implement the process of federalism and realize the visions of the Constitution.
These efforts were carefully designed as part of our longer-term crisis response, through which UNDP focused on helping decision- makers look beyond recovery, towards 2030, by supporting them in making choices and managing complexity and uncertainty in governance, social protection, digital transformation, and green recovery.
Importantly, the green recovery and resilience agenda is a key policy concern for governments the world over. For Nepal, which stands on the cusp of graduation from LDC status, the message from COVID-19 was loud and clear: shock resilience should be built into the development model to ensure that graduation is irreversible. To that end, in 2020 we worked in 16 municipalities and all seven provinces to help local governments understand and manage disaster risks and vulnerabilities. We supported them in designing and delivering policy and action plans to reduce the risks of disaster, increasing resources for disaster and climate risk mitigation and response, and in piloting risk insurance schemes.
For all its shackles and predicaments, 2020 offered UNDP an unexpected opportunity to innovate and explore new areas for support, particularly in health systems. Crucial health supplies, including PCR machines, RNA extractors, and ventilators, were provided to provincial laboratories and hospitals. Through our Accelerator Lab, we partnered with local youth groups and innovators to explore and adopt innovative solutions to urban waste management, COVID-19-related information management, unemployment and sustainable urban mobility. In all these initiatives, our efforts sought to ensure that they ultimately promote gender equality and social inclusion, key aspects that cut across all our programmes.
This annual report captures some of these results achieved in 2020, along with illustrative stories from those that benefited. The results would not have been possible without the support of the federal and sub-national governments, Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Parliament, law enforcement agencies, constitutional bodies such as Election Commission, National Human Rights Commission, Office of the Attorney General, the private sector, media and CSOs and that of our international development partners, the UN Agencies and the UN Resident Coordinator, to each of whom we extend our appreciation and heartfelt gratitude.
As we review our efforts during this most extraordinary year, we also look to 2021 with much determination and not a little optimism. A great deal remains to be done as we move forward in the face of ever more complex challenges. These include effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic, stepping in to shield all of us from the virus and to recover from it, and hold our course in the effort to save lives, boost the capacities of provincial and local governments in service provision, and initiatives that seek to reduce disaster risks and build resilience in for instance, catalytic support in managing vulnerable watersheds and promoting people’s access to affordable energy. A major focus will remain on promoting inclusive economic growth and addressing unemployment by nurturing sustainable tourism and a green recovery, including through partnership with provincial governments, international financial institutions and the private sector.
The pandemic serves to invigorate UNDP’s resolve to continue supporting the people and the Government of Nepal in their realization of the vision of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. It is our fervent hope and belief that together we can and will ride out the storm and create a better, more prosperous, more just and more sustainable society.
This is the 'foreword' by UNDP Nepal's Resident Representative Ayshanie Medagangoda Labe which was orginially published in our recently published Annual Report 2020. Download full report here.